A decade of drama

Liam Durkin

THE past decade has seen a relatively even Sale-Maffra Cricket Association first grade competition, as seven of the current eight clubs have won an A grade premiership, while every club has participated in finals at some stage.

Two noticeable changes occurred in the previous decade, with Sale City returning to the A grade competition in 2011-12 after a two-season absence, replacing Wurruk.

A further change occurred when Sale City was returned to playing as Longford in 2015-16.

Cricketers around the district were buoyed when the Bundalaguah indoor centre was opened in 2015, giving local players the opportunity to have access to facilities normally reserved for those closer to Melbourne.

Sale-Maffra was again a dominant force in representative cricket, winning five senior Gippsland Cricket League premierships. Undoubtedly the highlight for the SMCA came in 2014-15, when the Sharks senior team won the provincial division premiership at Melbourne Country Week.

SPECTATORS have been spoilt when it comes to nail-biting SMCA grand finals this past decade, as astonishingly, three consecutive deciders saw teams batting second claim victory with one wicket in hand.

IN the 2011-12 grand final Maffra chased Bundalaguah’s 234 to take out the premiership.

The Bulls looked dead and buried at 6-66, before Nathan Massey scored 90 batting at number six and Sam Bedggood peeled off 46 further down the order.

In reply, the Eagles looked to be on track at 3-104, with Brett Lanigan controlling things with a knock of 57 and Ben Durrant making 41. A few wickets later Maffra found themselves 45 runs shy with only one wicket in hand.

Number eight batsman Heath Shingles then guided the team across the line with an unbeaten 51, along with number 11 Nathan Magnuson, who held on for dear life in a match winning partnership.

It was Maffra’s second heart-stopping premiership in three seasons, after the Eagles were awarded the 2008-09 premiership when the grand final ended in a tie. Having finished the regular season on top of the ladder – Maffra was crowned premier.

IT is not often an individual performance is remembered more than the winning team in a grand final, but that could well be the case for the 2012-13 decider between Stratford and Bundalaguah, when Stratford opener Chris Aurisch put together arguably the greatest innings in the history of the SMCA.

After being reduced to 4-15, Stratford went on to compile 217, of which Aurisch scored 158. The next highest score after Aurisch was 26.

The Redbacks looked all but certain to win the flag as Bundalaguah fell to 8-112, before the Bulls found a hero of their own in Daniel Beddgood, who made 93 batting at number five. With the score 9-200, Bundalaguah’s last wicket pairing of Sam Bedggood (30 not out) and Trevor Wrigglesworth (nine not out) saw the side over the line in a dramatic finish.

STRATFORD got to experience life on the other side the following season, in an equally nerve-wracking grand final against Boisdale-Briagolong.

The Saints compiled 168 in its first innings, with Michael Roberts leading all comers with 60 opening the batting.

The Redbacks began their reply disastrously, and were a wicket down before a run was scored.

Runs to Ben Shepperson (40), Jack Tatterson (35) and Nathan Thomas (29) creeped the score to 7-139, but the side was still a tricky 30 short of the target.

The final pair of Jack Rietschel and Simon Waixel then saw the Redbacks over the line, with Rietchel receiving player of the match honours for his bowling effort of 5-32.

ROSEDALE-Kilman y broke through in 2015-16 with a two wicket grand final win over Bundalaguah.

The Warriors were on fire early with ball, and reduced the Bulls to 5-13.

Batting first drop, Bundalaguah’s Ben Saxon scored a fighting 52, along with Mat Dowsett who made 44 to see the Bulls post 155.

The game looked all but gone for Rosedale-Kilmany, who were starring their fate in the eye at 6-33. Number six batsman Jake Benfield then cemented himself in RK folklore by batting through the innings to score 75 not out and guide the team to victory.

It was Benfield’s highest score for the season and the Warriors’ first A grade premiership in 29 seasons.

DUBBED the ‘Incredi-Bulls’, Bundalaguah ensured no team from the firsts to the fourths missed out on a premiership, with grand final victory across all senior grades. The performance capped off a dominant season for the Bulls, who recorded a club winning rate of 80 per cent.

BUNDALAGUAH appeared to be on track to defend its first innings total of 129 after Sale’s top order capitulated to see the Swans 5-35 at Sale Oval.

Coming in at number seven, Wrigglesworth proceeded to spend close to six hours at the crease and whacked a mammoth 197 not out, with his knock including 27 fours and two sixes. Sale ended their innings at 9-360, with Wrigglesworth almost quadrupling the next highest score on the batting card.

IN a spell of bowling usually only found in prewar records when batsman were armed with toothpicks, Collegians’ Stuart Anderson made the most of more than favourable bowling conditions at Rosedale Recreation Reserve to single-handedly dismiss the entire Warriors team.

Bending the ball around corners, Anderson took care of things as Rosedale-Kilmany was reduced to 8-18, before being bowled out for 31 in under 24 overs. Of the 10 wickets Anderson took, four were unassisted including three bowled.

One had to feel sorry for the poor Rosedale-Kilmany batsmen, who not only had to deal with Anderson, but also the express pace of Nathan King at the other end.

AFTER winning two games in two seasons and finishing last in 2016-17 and 2017-18, the Saints looked a possibility of claiming a third consecutive wooden spoon when it went into the 2018-19 Christmas break languishing in second-last position on the ladder.

Consecutive wins over Sale and Stratford to start the new year resurrected some lost pride, before a three run victory over Collegians made people take notice.

Two more wins meant a final round showdown with Maffra for a place in the finals awaited the victor. Boisdale-Briagolong won through to the finals to steal fourth position on the ladder and went on to win the club’s maiden first grade premiership.

The Saints won every game after Christmas to win the flag.

HAVING won the premiership the season before, Stratford’s chances of going back-to-back disintegrated when they had all their points stripped on the eve of the 2014-15 finals series for allegedly failing to properly register a professional player.

The Redbacks maintained the player in question had not been paid for their services, but were unsuccessful in appealing the charge.

Stratford was in fifth position when its points were wiped and would have finished fourth after it thumped Sale City in the final round.

The verdict meant the winner of the clash between Maffra and Boisdale-Briagolong in the last game of the regular season would play finals. The Saints won through to make one of the more unlikely finals appearances in recent times.